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Making of a Modern Resume: 3 Trends to Avoid, and 3 to Use

woman rewriting her resume, smiling

There’s no end to opinions and options when it comes to building and formatting your resume. Any quick conversation or Internet search is likely to leave anyone searching for a job feeling overwhelmed and confused. In addition to individual preferences you may encounter, there is also a dizzying array of fillable templates online. Templates and advice run the gamut from full-color to text-rich. So, how do you know what actually works in today’s market? Well, to shed some light on that, let’s break down some of the most common trends – the ones that don’t work, the ones that do, and the reason to avoid or to use each.

3 Popular Resume Trends to Avoid

Colorful and graphic templates

The idea behind including color or imagery is to make a resume stand out in the proverbial slush pile. However, there’s such a thing as standing out in the wrong way. It would be like if you attended an interview wearing a fuchsia suit and a plaid bowtie – you would certainly stand out but not for the reasons you want, and the impression you leave wouldn’t be the one you had hoped for. Whether you’re a senior VP or a junior analyst, even if you work in a reasonably creative industry, you need to appear professional. Add to this the fact that most ATS that companies use cannot parse colors and graphics, you may actually end up at a disadvantage. To show-case your uniqueness, and remain ATS-friendly there are a couple tools you can use:

Uniquely shaped bullets: try switching out the usual filled square or circle bullet with another image that is eye-catching but still utilitarian.

Fonts: Always stick with a san serif font, but feel free to experiment with which one as long as you don’t get so off-beat that it becomes hard to read. Calibri or Ariel are both nice, but feel free to explore the options.

Strategic underlining and bolding: Feel free to use either of these formatting elements to make your headings and sub-headings stand out. As long as you’re consistent, use them sparingly, and it’s intuitively obvious what your emphasis is signaling, being creative with it can make your resume look handsome, and add to the readability, as well.

Creative content: This is, by far, the most important aspect of your resume! You can make the document as elegant as you please to get readers’ attention, but it’s your ideas and how you express them that will, ultimately, keep them reading. Add a bit of personal flair to the way you write to show who you are.

Functional resumes

In these times, with certain industries and functions taking a hit and others on the rise, career change is, and will continue to be, more common than ever before. An equally common go-to for job seekers who have gaps or short tenures is to create a functional a man types on his computerresume. Many people think this is an ideal way to highlight transferable skills and take the focus off the industry or function they’re shifting away from, or short-term jobs. Functional resumes, however, open a can of worms, creating more problems than they solve. This layout can make it impossible for an employer to tell when or where you achieved what. This is a major issue as hiring managers are more inundated with resumes than ever before, they simply need to know what happened when and where in order to make sense of the document. Without that, the reader will be confused and disoriented, and will simply move on to the next resume. Functional resumes also push the experience section way too far down on the resume, making it impossible to find at a glance. Finally, functional resumes emphasize skills but don’t necessarily offer proof of how well you’ve made use of them via related achievements. For example, the skill set of B2B sales is all very well, but unless we can see how you’ve used it to grow revenue, you’re laying claim to a skill without proving you’ve used it effectively.

Devoting an entire section solely to achievements

A resume that is chronological with the exception of a section listing your highlighted achievements, often called a hybrid as it is partially functional and partially chronological, has the same challenges as a completely functional resume. Laying out achievements in their own separate list disorients the reader and pushes the experience section down. Besides, the work experience section then loses value, containing unnecessary job description, repeating achievements listed elsewhere, or remaining empty, none of which are good uses of space in a document whose job is to remain at a succinct 2 pages (maximum).

3 Resume Trends to Use

Now let’s dive into the resume trends you should make use of in order to strengthen your application.

Open with an executive summary

Your summary is the 3-to-5-line paragraph, much like the one on your LinkedIn profile, where you need to present your professional brand and create a customized pitch that addresses your future employer’s needs. Without that, there’s no way for companies to know what your value-add is. We can’t expect busy HR professionals and hiring managers to read through your skills and experience in hopes of gaining a sense of who you are. You need to provide this for them and, given how seldom cover letters are read these days, the summary is the place to make this happen! Note that an executive summary is not the same as an objective. You’re presenting who you are, not what your aim is.

Customize your resume

If customizing your resume for every job you apply to sounds like too much time and effort, then it can be done strategically to reduce that effort. For example, if you are applying jobs in 3 distinct industries or fields, you should have 3 resume versions ready man working on his resumeto go. Then, you can make small tweaks to the summary, skills section, and experience section of each, depending on the job. If you’re applying to so many jobs that you don’t have time to effectively tweak your resume for each one, then it might be time to reevaluate your job searching strategy. You should focus on doing a quality job and pull back on quantity. You are a quality leader, so you’re expected to have a quality suite of application materials, which means investing the time to make them tailored and refined. For senior-level positions, the resume often takes the place of the un-asked-for cover letter so it is even more essential that you make a strong first impression.

Include your LinkedIn URL

This is the easiest thing in the world to do, and it really makes a difference. Aside from your resume, your LinkedIn profile is what interests employers – in fact in many cases, this is where they begin checking you out as many companies recruit by scanning LinkedIn for the likeliest candidates or simply hire those within their networks. In order to make it easy for potential employers to connect your resume to your profile, your LinkedIn credentials should appear in the top line of the resume, along with your other contact information. Connecting LinkedIn and resume also prevents the risk of the employer clicking on the profile of another person with the same name as your own, or getting frustrated trying to find you if you have a common name. As your brand must be consistent across channels, so should those channels be easily accessible from one to another. For your resume, there’s a good chance the hiring manager will print out your paper for a file, so be sure to write out the URL don’t just hyperlink your name.


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About the Author

Lilly-Marie Lamar is a career advisor for Ivy Exec. She provided career advice to college students and professionals in the U.S. and abroad, and was a Fulbright scholar. Lilly-Marie has a degree in education from Columbia University.